Friday, May 17, 2013

Original, Unedited (and Edited) Richard Tramm Story

Spring, Texas’ Richard Tramm doesn’t have the 147,103 followers on Twitter that two-time Ironman champion Chris McCormack has.

But the 50 or so that were following on Friday, November 9 quietly witnessed Tramm draw a line in the virtual sand.

“Ironman Texas 2013 goes off in 190 days and I plan to be there and ready to go on race day,” tweeted the happily married father of two grown daughters.

Not much of a reach from the Ironman athlete who reduced his time the most – by almost three hours (from 16:35:49 to 13:41:06) -- of the 243 who completed the first two Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

Quite another thing being just two weeks removed from a four-day ICU stay – the result of being hit from behind on a training ride by a vehicle’s side mirror.

The half Iron distance race that was two weeks away – with hopes of a fifth straight PR -- was dashed by at least five broken ribs (with many more bruised), a clavicle with four breaks which required surgery and a broken scapula.

Any self-pity, though, was left in the ditch where Tramm was found broken and battered, said his training partner, Karen Felicidario.

“I knew that the Oilman race was out, and I feared that perhaps all racing could be,” said Felicidario, the 100-mile trail finisher who will be attempting her first Ironman on Saturday.  “But as I visited Richard in the hospital, I could not help but notice the positive and encouraging outlook he has for his fellow teammates and others he was now imparting on himself.”

One which was cultivated from a journey which saw Tramm beginning to transform himself near the end of 2006 after a failed promise to get healthier after turning 40 the preceding Christmas.

“I had my annual checkup with my doctor,” he said.  “I kind of got that standard talk, ‘You’re over weight …’  He considered me pre-diabetic and went through some of the things I could expect if I developed diabetes as a result.”

Although Tramm recalls that he’s not certain, for quite some time, where his weight was, the number 290 wasn’t just the name of the highway to Austin.

“It helped me realize that it wasn’t the direction I wanted if I wanted to be around to see my daughters and one day their children grow up,” he added.

Yet over the next two years, he diligently progressed from the local 5Ks and 10Ks and beyond the half marathon culminating in the 30K in December 2008 where he ran the last 10K of the race with Heather Herrick.

Sporting the shirt of a triathlon Tramm had hoped to do one day, the Austin native sprouted the triathlon seed that Tammie Manchester, a fellow runner and triathlete from The Woodlands, had planted earlier that summer.

“I was running the weekly long run with The Woodlands Running Club and every now and then I would hear a story from someone,” Tramm said.  “Until then, I didn’t even know the concept of competitive triathlon even existed.

“I knew that Tammie had done it.  She was the first person that gave me any serious encouragement.”

In a year’s time, that support would buoy him from the community CB&I sprint triathlon, which starts in the same waters as Saturday’s Ironman Texas, through two half Ironman finishes (Ironman 70.3 Austin and Ironman 70.3 Texas).

With Galveston’s much flatter bike course and just over five months to prepare, Tramm believed that he had more than a six-minute improvement (from 7:58:38 to 7:52:07) in the tank.

“I knew that I could do better, but I didn’t quite know how to get there,” he said.

An Ironman was a logical thought progression and with one in Tramm’s back yard to be announced any day soon, he began contacting a number of groups and coaches.

He settled on The Woodlands’ Michelle LeBlanc, the founder of OutRival Racing, the official coach of Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas.

“I just felt like she was the right match,” he said.  “We talked for about an hour and I felt like she was the person that could get me to where I could realize my greatest personal potential.”

Tramm’s numbers on his initial athlete questionnaire might not have foretold that potential, LeBlanc acknowledged, but he quickly began to realize it.

“As an athlete, I learned long ago that sport isn’t about winning or losing,” she said.  “It’s about giving your best effort and being content with where that puts you in relation to others.  Richard was an example to me to transcend that belief into my coaching.”

Improvement is about making the right adjustments – for both the athlete and the coach.

“I enjoy working with athletes who give their best regardless of their times and finishing places,” she added.  “And Richard has turned out to be one of my most improved and one of the hardest, most disciplined (triathletes) that I’ve worked with.”

Tramm’s enthusiasm for triathlon has not only guided him through two Ironman finishes and a recovery from injury that has been nothing short of remarkable, but he started last year’s Ironman Texas at 175 pounds – just less than 40 percent of his weight when he started late in 2006.

“I was a little dubious as good as an athlete as Michelle was and is, but I’ve not regretted that decision to this day,” he said.  “If I had not gotten with her, I don’t think I would have gotten the improvement out of my training that I have now.”

And it was that fitness gained that he was fearful he would lose, leading him to closely confide in the orthopedic surgeon at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands during his second day in the hospital.

“He wasn’t sure that it was going to be possible,” Tramm said.  “He said if I recover well, and do what it takes to heal, recover and restore body, there’s no reason that it isn’t a possibility.  That became my driving motivation.”

Although cleared to begin full training in mid-February – a month later than in his previous two Ironman Texas, the 47-year-old finished Ironman 70.3 Texas in Galveston in early April in 6:13:04 – short of his pre-injury PR, but another brick in his long road of perseverance and tenacity.

“For the first time in a long time, I’m not coming into a race with any pre-conceived notions of what my pace will be or what my time goals are,” Tramm explained saying that his training has included more base work and less intensity with a goal to complete the distance.

“Because of my recovery, I’m not sure how my body is going to respond.  I’m going to follow a very basic race plan, according to my heart rate, and a solid nutrition plan.”

And when the gun goes off Saturday morning at Northshore Park, he says he’s “100% committed to completing that course on that day and at this point, it doesn’t matter what I’ve been through.  It will be to go – and finish.”

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

CB&I Event and Post-Event Report

I've been deficient in blogging recently, but had a little time after taking Waverly to church early for choir practice (and before I make it there for the 10:30 a.m. service).  Her Mom had to go get her from work yesterday because she didn't feel comfortable enough to drive home.

Therefore, I have some time to attempt to properly articulate much that occurred yesterday, Saturday, May 4.

More than a month ago, I reached out to Angel Nicks and Kelly Deitrich with the Parks and Recreation Department of The Woodlands Township to see if they needed me to finish line announce - as I have in the past - both the Muddy Trails 5K and 10K in early April and the 10th anniversary CB&I TRI sprint triathlon, which was yesterday.

Last year, I had announced Muddy Trails, but when I received the participant list for CB&I to begin preparation there were a few individuals in the field that I didn't feel as if I could have announced their finish as enthusiastically as everyone else.

Therefore, I walked away from something that I loved doing, plus being in the company of many people who I enjoy.

I didn't feel like I could be a hypocrite - and be Mr. Cheerful - when they were party to a vile and false accusation that one person in the community had leveled against me.

A lot of water under the bridge since then, though, and a lot of personal growth (especially when I would have to unexpectedly face it on Saturday.)

I had worked with the timer, Cadence Sports, at Muddy Trails and was working with them two weeks before to figure out a way to give the Montgomery County groups as much love as possible.

Leading up to the race, I e-mailed all of the groups to get a list of their club or training group's participants so I could get that inputted into the timer's database, but only one responded with their entire roster (OutRival Racing) and another with their first-timers (Finish Strong).

As with any other time, I did my best to give all of the groups as much love as possible - even when they didn't wear their club's racing kit.

Angel had e-mailed me on Thursday to indicate that their normal pre-race and swim-start announcer was only going to be able to stay until 9:30 a.m. and asked if I would be able to vacate the finish line and handle the awards ceremony.  I told Angel that I would do whatever was needed.

I was up at 3:30 a.m., out the door at about 4:05 a.m., got breakfast on the way and was parked and walked over to the race site by approximately 4:45 a.m.

Immediately, the effect of the Boston Marathon bombings were evident as there were at least four police dogs that had been engaged by various agencies.  When I race announce, I usually am all over the grounds in my way to network with people - picking up bits of information that I may use - and to actually relax.  I don't know that I ever get nervous.  I'm just more concerned about doing my job as well as possible.

A little after five, and after visiting a little with Kelly, Finish Strong Coaching's Dana Lyons (who was managing transition) and super volunteer and runner Barry Blanton, who's the face of the Montgomery County Light the Night Walk, I walked toward the finish line, which hadn't even been erected by the team from Luke's Locker.

As I did, with a camera bag over my left shoulder, one of four officers - two, of which were those with dogs - asked me where I was headed.  I told him that I was the race announcer (I had a sponsor badge on) and he said, "Ok", but I soon realized what it might have looked like.  Wow.  How things have changed in such a short time.

Hugh Frazier, who announces the USA Fit Marathon in Sugar Land, had been engaged to spell me at the finish line.  He had arrived during the 5 a.m. hour and as the 6 a.m. mark approached, I reazlied that we weren't hearing any pre-race announcements plus I didn't see Steve Curry from Skygod Productions yet.

As I'm still writing this report on Tuesday, I realized earlier this afternoon that I didn't read her e-mail completely and that Michael Garfield wasn't going to make it at all -- and it would be all on me!

We figured it out on race morning nonetheless.  And thanks to Hugh having the waves printed - as well as some sponsor information, we were able to navigate through two 15-minute delays, the race director and USAT official briefings and an incredible invocation (Pastor Frankie Mazzapica of Celebration Church of the Woodlands) and National Anthem (by The Woodlands High School sophomore Andrea Zhobar).

After making it through about eight of the swim waves, Hugh took over the last four to five while I vacated to the finish line (which is what I love the most at this event).

Steve was just getting everything setup as the first elite runners hit the run course.

His sound was awesome this year as my best friend Bill Dwyer said that he could hear me - not clearly - on the run course in East Shore (in The Woodlands).

Again, at a certain point, I vacated the finish line (where Hugh took over) and made my way to the awards area to handle these.  I worked with Angel and Cadence to make sure that everything was in order.

Triny Aguirre won overall female, but her time didn't read.  I was able to validate one of the individuals in front of her, but that they were in a different age group.  Once that was determined, as well as confirming that Geri Henry had finished (she was the only 65-69 female), we were ready to go.

I really don't think anything of getting in front of a crowd and speaking -- and being relevant.

I introduced Bruce Tough, the Chairman of the Board of the Board of the Directors of The Woodlands Township and he presented the fine folks from CB&I with an impressive crystal piece of work for their 10-year sponsorship of the event.  The only mistake that I made was that I meant to introduce those athletes who had competed every year early in the ceremony to gave them maximum face time in front of all of those waiting for the awards.  (I apologized to them later - when I remembered.)

It went well.  I was pleased with the effort.

I usually make a note about who I saw during an event and talked to.  Ha!  I had great conversations and interactions with many, many people.  Some that stood out included Karen Ponette-Maldonado, Richard Tramm, Scott Farrand, Chris White and Greg Colvin.

About the comment earlier having to deal with something from last year?

At about 6 a.m., when I went over to transition to try to get in touch with Dana to make an announcement or two about transition, I turned to my left - no more than 11 a.m. on the clock, so to speak - and the person that claimed to have filed a police report on me the Monday after Thanksgiving 2011 with the MCSO was standing within five (5) feet of me.

What was claimed to have been filed was absolutely untrue and I was never, ever contacted by anyone over it.  Later in the morning (coming from the finish line to the award stage -and- coming from the restroom - in front of a row of sponsor tents - back to the stage), I - and completely inadvertently - would pass within the same distance of that person twice.

Honestly, I went about my business as if they didn't exist.  Tough to say that about somebody who you once considered a friend.

Speaking of friends, however, Bill told me that Volte was having a double secret surprise social at Goose's Acre that evening for J.C. Morrell (and his wife's) baby show and Juliee Sparks' birthday.

I stopped in to visit Mick Long and Rick Cook at Fleet Feet Sports in Shenandoah (to let Mick know that I wasn't going to debut my Internet radio show - the Texas Endurance Sports Hour - as planned last Sunday) and then made it home to get a couple of hours sleep.

I was hoping Waverly could have gone with me, but she had come home from work sick.  It was her next to last day of work (at her part-time job at a dress shop).

Even though CB&I was pretty spectacular, I think the evening was just as good - in many, many ways.

I had shared with a couple of what it felt like to have to back out of something because you didn't know if people were talking about you in the background - and one half of the duo explained that they understood from some personal experiences they had lived through.

A lot of times, especially in the last two months, I have shied away from a lot of formal and informal group functions because a lot of times I don't feel like I fit in (and I worked a lot of races, too, during that time as well).

Otherwise, I talked with a few in the group a little longer than I have in the past - and maybe some additional opportunities will present themselves in the future.

As they say, only time will tell, right?